A Favorite Island Fruit

When we bought our home on Anna Maria Island ten years ago, we did not know what was in store for us. There were a few unpleasant surprises, such as termites, but most of the surprises were good ones. For example, the delicious flavor of the bananas that were growing along our property line.

I’ve written before about these bananas. We continue to enjoy the delicious fruit they produce. Although we usually get fruit in summer, for some reason we have lots of fruit forming on the trees as Christmas approaches. What a wonderful surprise gift to us during the holidays.

Our bananas are extremely tasty, perhaps because they contain three kinds of sugar: sucrose, fructose and glucose. But this is healthy food, too … an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and fiber.

The first sign that fruit is on the way is the large, deep red banana flower that grows out on a stalk from the plant. Behind the flower, a bunch of bananas eventually forms. One bunch is made up of a series of “hands,” which is the usual unit in which we find store-bought bananas. The bananas that grow in our yard are much smaller than store-bought, and there are more of them in a hand. The skin is thinner, so the fruit is actually bigger than one might expect, based on commercial bananas with their thick skin.

Eating home grown banana But the most wonderful difference between our bananas and store-bought is the amazing flavor. It was described by my elderly father as tasting like banana with additional fruit flavors, such as strawberry. It is, indeed, a complex flavor and very sweet if one waits long enough before eating them. In researching different kinds of bananas, it’s not clear which kind we have, but I think it’s likely that it’s the Manzano banana. This is described as having strawberry and apple as part of the flavor. Furthermore, the Manzano is ripe when the skin turns black. Although we do not usually wait that long, we have noticed that it’s necessary to wait a long time before these bananas taste their best. The Manzano is described as being short and stubby. But there is another small variety often called “baby” or “nino,” and this also could be what we have in our yard.

Timing of when to harvest the bananas is slightly tricky, because people are not the only creatures who love these tropical delicacies. The longer the bananas stay on the stalk, the plumper they become. But the more likely they are to be sampled by the general animal public. Fortunately, even when they are picked very early, very green and small, they still usually ripen to have a good flavor. We have found that once the bananas turn deep yellow, it’s good to wait an additional few days before peeling and eating them.